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Meredith Moon, the youngest of Gordon Lightfoot’s children, on celebrating his legacy

Written by on May 22, 2024

TORONTO — Meredith Moon is helping fulfil one of her late father Gordon Lightfoot’s wishes.

When a tribute concert kicks off Thursday at Toronto’s Massey Hall, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter will be among an array of Canadian musicians taking the stage to honour her legendary dad’s influence on music.

Performers booked for the show — dubbed Celebrating Gordon Lightfoot — include Tom Cochrane, Burton Cummings, City and Colour and folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Murray McLauchlan.

“My father had written down before he passed that he would like some sort of musical celebration in his name,” she explained in a phone conversation from her home near Peterborough, Ont.

“I think we all knew that it would take place at Massey Hall, his home away from home.”

Lightfoot, who died just over a year ago at age 84, is forever linked with the historic Toronto venue. He first played Massey during a singing competition when he was 13 and returned around 170 times over his career.

His estate directed proceeds from ticket sales of the sold-out show go toward Massey Hall, a non-profit charitable organization, and its efforts to support artist development and music education.

Other musicians set to play the Lightfoot tribute include Serena Ryder, Kathleen Edwards, Julian Taylor, Aysanabee and Allison Russell, who honoured Lightfoot at this year’s Juno Awards.

Moon, who performs under her mother Elizabeth Moon’s maiden name, has been charting a music career separate from the Lightfoot name. She released her second album “Constellations” last year.

The youngest of Lightfoot’s six children spoke to The Canadian Press about growing up with a famous father, how his advice shaped her and plans for the tribute.

CP: Before we talk about honouring your dad, can I ask about your last name? Why do you not perform under your legal name Meredith Lightfoot?

Moon: I chose to do it on my own merits because of the obvious. My father was very supportive. “No nepotism there,” was his quote. I opened for him on tour in August and October 2022. He never mentioned on stage that I was related to him. We both wanted me to keep my independence and know that the path of my music was of its own natural rhythm.

CP: It’s unusual for the child of a famous person to choose to disconnect from a recognizable family name.

Moon: No disrespect to anybody who uses their parents’ name, but I always wanted to know that the praise my music got was for my music — and the negative feedback.

CP: What did your dad teach you about music?

Moon: He was always very supportive of choosing this path. (I remember) from a very young age telling him I wanted to be a singer and write songs. And he was like, “All right, I’m going to get you a ukulele.” So he got me a ukulele and printed off a couple of songs for me to learn, just old folk tunes. When I was starting out, he would remind me to enunciate my words. So whenever I’m singing live now, I hear his voice (saying), “Enunciate.” More importantly, he taught me to separate myself from a career choice in the public eye, hold true to family and values, and never allow your stage persona to overshadow the quality time spent with people you love. He was very good at being a dad.

CP: I interviewed him a number of times before he died and he often brought up his regret of not spending adequate time with his children as a younger man, and how he tried to make amends in his later years. It sounds like maybe you experienced some of that?

Moon: I did, yeah. I’m very lucky to have because I know he wasn’t always aware of it. The majority of the time that my dad was my dad, he was in his later years, where he had very much learned that skill. And I had a very close relationship with him.

CP: How did the tribute at Massey Hall take shape?

Moon: The whole Massey Hall crew is organizing this event and they chose some wonderful Canadian musicians. Every single person on this show is absolutely appropriate for it. And I’m going to be playing three tunes. That’s all I know about it so far.

CP: There’s been some controversy around who wasn’t invited to perform. Ron Sexsmith recently took to social media to express dismay over not being allowed to honour his hero, despite his expressions of interest. Lightfoot’s longtime manager Bernie Fiedler also wasn’t invited to be directly involved. Is criticism of those omissions justified?

Moon: I am completely unaware of any of that. I just check my email to see the updates (around) my involvement. Everyone’s entitled to their feelings and I don’t really have any comments on that.

CP: So you’re saying you hadn’t heard about it?

Moon: I actually hadn’t heard about it, no. I have a lot of respect for Ron Sexsmith, and it would have been great if he’d been involved.

CP: Some have suggested there’s room for more concert tributes to Gordon Lightfoot, perhaps around his birthday in November. Others have called for public spaces to be named after him. How do you feel about so many different parties taking an interest in the Lightfoot name?

Moon: People want to pay homage to this person whom they feel a very personal connection to. And a lot of people in Canada and around the world feel like he was a huge part of their lives. So I understand wanting to pay their respects to him in those ways. I don’t really have any opinion on that. I’m just kind of savouring and remembering fondly the person who my dad was. I’m grateful that I had him. And the rest is what it is. I don’t really read any news or know about what’s going on. It’s been a year or so. My family and I are still just trying to learn a new way of living without him. A lot of us are still grieving. And I think we always will.

— This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2024.

David Friend, The Canadian Press